NRA’s Life of Duty feature on these elite Wildland Firefighters
The History of Smokejumping
“Prior to the full establishment of smokejumping, experiments with parachute insertion of firefighters were conducted in 1934 in Utah and in the Soviet Union. Earlier aviation firefighting experiments had been conducted with air delivery of equipment and “water bombs.” Although this first experiment was not pursued, another began in 1939 in Washington’s Methow Valley, where professional parachutists jumped into a variety of timber and mountainous terrain, proving the feasibility of the idea. This also saw the first Forest Service employee jumper, Francis Lufkin, who was originally hired as a climber to extract the professional parachutists from the trees. It is believed that he made this first jump on a dare from the parachutists.
The following year, in 1940, permanent jump operations were established at Winthrop, Washington and Ninemile Camp, Montana. The first actual fire jumps in the history of smokejumping were made by Rufus Robinson and Earl Cooley at Rock Pillar near Marten Creek in the Nez Perce National Forest on July 12, 1940, out of Ninemile, followed shortly by a two-man fire jump out of Winthrop. In subsequent years, the Ninemile Camp operation moved to Missoula, where it became the Missoula Smokejumper Base. The Winthrop operation remained at its original location, as North Cascades Smokejumper Base. The “birthplace” of smokejumping continues to be debated between these two bases, the argument having persisted at this time for approximately 70 years.”
Excerpt from Wikipedia